Feature: Ask the iTunes Guy
Kirk McElhearn answers your iTunes questions
Can I get rid of the play button?
Q: Is there any way to get rid of the play button that displays when I hover over artwork in iTunes? I often move my cursor over the artwork and
an album starts playing because I inadvertently dragged my cursor over the button.
A: No. The button you’re talking about displays when you hover your cursor over an album in certain views, and over other items, such as movies and TV shows. This button is useful because it lets you play items with a single click. However, you can also double-click an album or a movie to start playing it, so it’s not essential.
No repeat, please
Q: I’d like to make a smart playlist where no songs by the same artist come up within, say, 25 songs. Is there any way to do this?
A: No, you can’t. We get this question often. People want to have more varied smart playlists than what iTunes’s random selections serve them. Some people want to ensure that no songs from the same album come up in a playlist; others want to exclude artists from repeats.
It’s an interesting idea, but it’s a bit difficult to imagine how it might be implemented. There could be a condition in the smart playlist dialog allowing you to avoid repeats by artist, album, and so on, but how would that be applied? Since smart playlists – in most cases – regenerate as you play them, and since the number of tracks they contain can vary depending on your settings, how would you define the no repeat period?
We think it’s a great idea, but we feel that adding this type of condition to smart playlists would be confusing.
Whither play counts on my iPhone?
Q: Is there any way to see play counts for my music on iOS?
A: No, not possible. The iOS Music app doesn’t show you as much metadata as iTunes does. It only shows such things as the name of the artist, album, and track. Adding this might be useful to some people, but the Music app is already cluttered enough. We don’t think most people need to see this information, and Apple is right to not display it.
Too much recently added music
Q: Is there any way to remove items from the Recently Added list in iTunes or in the iOS Music app? Sometimes I add a lot of new music, but I really don’t want to see it there.
A: No. The Recently Added lists, in both iTunes and the iOS Music app, are a sort of smart playlist that shows all your music (or other content in iTunes) from most recently added to the oldest. This view doesn’t give you any display options; you can’t change the size of the artwork or the scope of ‘recently’.
What’s the track?
Q: You used to be able to see track numbers for each track on a playlist on the iPhone, but the iOS Music app removed this a while ago. Is there any way to view track numbers in playlists?
A: No, sorry. And we don’t know why. Perhaps Apple thought that those track numbers were distracting. We never found them useful, to be honest. If we could see, for example, 7 of 10, rather than just 7, might be useful, but within a playlist we don’t see this as being pertinent information.
Change the date
Q: Can I change the date added that shows up on my media in iTunes?
A: Nope. We get this question from people who use the Date Added tag in their music files to create smart playlists, such as ones that contain
music added in, say, the past month. Many people use such playlists to have a sort of rotation list of recent music.
How can I sync my most recent audiobooks?
Q: My audiobook library is pretty large, and it is difficult to find my most recently downloaded or purchased titles. iTunes sorts audiobooks by name so I have to scroll like crazy, and visually search for a title. Is there an option to sort by most recently purchased or downloaded? It would keep me from having to scroll all over the place to find the titles to transfer to my iPhone, and delete old titles that I’ve finished.
A: From this question, we’re assuming that the reader wants to be able to see this sort order in the iTunes sync pane, when his iPhone is connected. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, but we can offer a suggestion for a better way to view and sync audiobooks. Start by creating a smart playlist, with the following conditions:
Match audiobooks for the following rules
Plays is 0
Limit to 25 items selected by most recently added Match only checked items
Here’s what this smart playlist does.
The first ‘match’ rule tells iTunes to only find audiobooks.
The Plays is 0 rule tells iTunes to only include audiobooks that haven’t been listened to in their entirety; in other words, all unlistened audiobooks will be added to the playlist.
You can limit the playlist to any number of items; that number depends on how many new audiobooks you have.
In the ‘limit’ rule, sorting by most recently added means that iTunes will not only find audiobooks that you haven’t listened to, but only those you’ve added recently, and will sort in that order, so the most recent will be at the top of the playlist.
‘Match only checked items’ means that you can uncheck any audiobook so it doesn’t appear in the playlist.
‘Live updating’ means that the playlist updates as you add new items to your library, or as you listen to audiobooks to the end, at which time their play counts update.
You can then choose to sync this playlist instead of manually selecting books. Connect the iPhone to your computer, select it in iTunes, then click Audiobooks in the sidebar. Under Include Audiobooks from Playlists, check this smart playlist. At the same time, uncheck Sync Audiobooks at the top of the window so only those books in the
playlist sync. Before you sync, scan the playlist, uncheck books you don’t want to sync, and it’ll be a lot easier in a large library to always have your most recent, unlistened books on your iPhone.
You can also use a similar technique if you want to sync, say, your most recently downloaded movies and TV shows, the ones you haven’t watched yet.
Why have my Apple Music tracks been deleted?
Q: I noticed recently that an album I had added from Apple Music was now dimmed in my iTunes library and would no longer play. I always download tracks as opposed to streaming them directly so I was curious as to why I couldn’t play them. When I looked more closely, I saw that the iCloud Status for these tracks was No Longer Available.
A: We were sure we’d downloaded these tracks, and when we looked in our Time Machine backup, we found that this was, indeed, the case. This means that iTunes deleted the local files. We can
understand tracks being unavailable to stream if they are removed from Apple Music, but we were under the (misguided) impression that as long as you had a valid Apple Music subscription, you’d be able to play any tracks previously downloaded.
Record labels have the right to choose whether or not the music they put on the iTunes Store is ‘cleared’ for streaming. This choice is available for each album, and also for each track. It’s possible to not allow an album to be streamed, or to only allow one or two tracks of an album to be streamed. Labels can also change this at any time.
What’s confusing is the fact that, as you say, tracks you have downloaded, and listened to, are suddenly unavailable.
But this does bring up a broader point about renting music versus owning it. When you rent music, it can disappear at any time, and Apple removes those tracks from your computer (but not from your library). This doesn’t happen often, but it happens; in our Apple Music library of 30,000 tracks, 355 of them are ‘No Longer Available’. And if it’s music you really like, you’ll be annoyed.
You can find the tracks in your library that are no longer available with a smart playlist. Use the following conditions:
Match music for the following rules iCloud Status is No Longer Available
It’s worth checking from time to time to see how much of the music you added to your library has disappeared. Apple is not being nefarious; it’s just doing what the labels tell it to do.
iTunes shows you a track’s play count, but the iOS Music app doesn’t
This smart playlist can help sync new audiobooks
On this Brad Mehldau Trio album, a single track, Baby Plays Around, is dimmed, and is no longer available